Robodebt report prompts change
The Commonwealth has committed to implementing recommendations from the Robodebt Royal Commission, changing how it manages automated decision-making and inter-departmental data sharing.
The Royal Commission criticised the “crude and cruel” Robodebt scheme in its report, prompting the government to publish its response on Monday.
While agreeing in principle to all 56 recommendations, the government rejected the notion that Cabinet documents should be subject to freedom of information laws.
Investigations are underway for the 16 public servants mentioned in a sealed section of the Royal Commission's report.
Government Services Minister Bill Shorten says that the response aims to prevent a recurrence of the devastating impacts of Robodebt, expressing condolences to those who lost their lives due to the scheme.
Attorney General Mark Dreyfus echoed the Royal Commission, labelling Robodebt as a “shameful chapter” in the welfare system's history, decrying the deliberate and calculated scheme.
Robodebt, an unlawful automated debt recovery initiative, used a simplistic income averaging method to create illegal debts, causing considerable harm to vulnerable Australians.
The Royal Commission's final report recommended legal framework reforms for government service automation, transparency improvements, and a clear path for affected individuals to seek review.
The government has accepted these recommendations, aligning them with upcoming Privacy Act reforms.
These changes will mandate privacy policies to disclose data used in automated decisions and introduce appropriate oversight mechanisms for automation in government service delivery.
Existing data-matching programs between Services Australia and the Australian Tax Office are under review to ensure compliance with legal and ethical standards.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has urged the government to provide a clear timeline for implementing the recommendations.
The Albanese Government has tabled its response, agreeing to all 56 recommendations and allocating $22.1 million in new funding over four years to support implementation. This comes in addition to previous funding injections for Services Australia.
The response also includes permanent increases in working age and student payments, expanded eligibility for Parenting Payment (single), and the largest increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance in over 30 years.